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Hillary Clinton took to Twitter on Sept. 3 to put forth an unexpected endorsement of a new startup called Verrit, dubbing it “a media platform for the 65.8 million!” While the figure is a clear reference to the votes Clinton received during the election, the company itself drew rampant confusion from the internet. From questions as to why she’d involve herself with a startup to what exactly that startup purported to do, the website was primed to receive an influx of millions of curious followers in the wake of the announcement. But as with most politically charged internet things in 2017, the Verrit website was subsequently hacked, went down, and has yet to get back up and running.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 3, 2017
But what is Verrit, and why would it be a potential target for a cyberattack? Here, we’ve run through exactly what we do know about the platform.
What is Verrit?
According to Verrit’s DonorBox profile — a popular web destination for investors — the company “collects and contextualizes noteworthy facts, stats, and quotes for politically engaged citizens. We center the shared interests, values, and aspirations of 65.8 million Clinton voters.” The Verrit website itself, while down, reiterates that same mission statement but goes on to say that the actual content of the site itself runs on a merit system, where “each verrit” is a verified item of information marked with a seven-digit identification code.” It also instructs visitors on how to participate themselves, saying, “To authenticate a verrit, enter the code in the search bar and match it to our database.” In other words: it’s a source for those who are seeking information tailored to a massive audience of Clinton voters and is aiming to make sure that those voters are armed to the teeth with verified information when they enter social media battles over the facts.
What does it look like?
While the site remains down, the Twitter account is still up and running and provides solid insight into what these messages look like. In short, their statements and facts are confirmed via the crowdsourcing platform to ensure that they’re truthful and can be used in public discourse (essentially working to fight against misinformation). They can be used as cards on social media, and they look like this:
— Verrit (@verrit) August 15, 2017
Who is behind Verrit?
Verrit was created by Peter and Leela Daou, who are both in Clinton’s innermost circles. Peter Daou has been a digital strategist for various Clinton campaigns, worked on the John Kerry 2004 presidential effort, and was the voice behind the popular male-based movement #HillaryMen.
What actually took Verrit down?
Conservative publications have taken the stance that the platform went down as a result of the site being wholly unprepared for the massive Clinton following to traffic the site simultaneously, though it seems highly improbable that increased traffic would keep a website down for a full day, if not longer. It’s far more likely that it was the result of a cyber or DDoS attack from those who saw a clear opportunity to take down a pro-Clinton site. Daou, for his part, has taken to Twitter repeatedly, with messages such as, “Hillary endorsed @verrit and it was hit with a DDOS attack. Even though the site is down, WE HAVE 11,000 NEW TWITTER FOLLOWERS in 2 hours.”
Why would Hillary back Verrit?
The most obvious reason is that the platform is aimed at her voting base. But beyond that, it’s a way to fight against the fake facts that are put forth by the Trump White House — think the Bowling Green massacre or some of the statements we’ve heard at rallies — and prove that there’s a large contingency of regular people who are looking to have a base where they can get real information that they can trust. It’s also not uncommon for presidential candidates to try to leverage their base toward a greater mission after the election; for example, Bernie Sanders’s massive following and staff were segued into a nonprofit organization called Our Revolution.
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